Outdoor adventures: Time to get on board with snowsports

  • Resorts are trying to attract newcomers to skiing and riding with a number of plans throughout the season including Ragged Mountain’s Bebe Wood Free Learn to Ski & Ride Program. RAGGED MOUNTAIN / Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 12/17/2016 10:25:04 PM

Ski areas want newcomers on board.

Snowsports industry research indicates the motivation for adults to learn to slide is based on a fancy to spend more time with family and friends. The National Ski Areas Association’s Beginners Conversion Study shows that 55 percent of beginner skiers and 45 percent of beginner snowboarders say they wanted to learn the sports for that purpose.

In addition, according to the study, the self-motivation factor is high. Forty-two percent of beginner skiers said they always wanted to learn the sport and 60 percent of beginner snowboarders indicated they always wanted to learn.

Plus, depending on the resort, kids can start learning as young as 3 or 4 years old, allowing parents and grandparents time with their ankle biters on the slopes.

There are specials about to keep costs low for skiers and riders new to the sport to make them lifelong members of Snow Nation like elementary school passport deals.

Ski Vermont’s Fifth Grade Passport program, now in its 17th year, is $11 while Ski New Hampshire’s 4th and 5th Grade Snowsports Passport is $30. Both programs provide access to Alpine and cross-country areas, while encouraging the development of healthy lifestyle habits.

From seasonlong, multi-lesson packages that allow for discounted or free equipment or season pass deals upon completion of January’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month with its group lesson markdowns for downhill, snowboarding and cross-country skiing, there are a number of affordable options available that are readily accessible to those making reservations.

“Any sport or activity needs to grow in order to be sustainable,” Ski New Hampshire Executive Director Jessyca Keeler said. “For the ski industry, we feel the best way to learn is taking a lesson. Trying to go out with a spouse or friend isn’t the best way to learn. We encourage people to take a lesson the first time, and even a second a third time.”

During the January special – be sure to check for holiday black-out dates for New Year’s Day and MLK weekend – participating areas provide a group beginner lesson, lift ticket and rental gear. In New Hampshire, participating ski areas have a $39 package for skiing and snowboarding, and a $19 deal for cross-country. A majority of Vermont ski areas taking part will have a $49 special.

“Okemo is delighted to be a participating resort in Ski Vermont’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard month every year,” Communications Manager Bonnie McPherson said in an email. “Okemo’s teaching terrain is specially designed for optimal learning, and with some of the best instructors in the business plus a new rental equipment fleet that offers the newest ski and snowboard technology available, Okemo gives first-timers every possible advantage to master new skills that will have them enjoying a lifetime of winter sports.”

Keeler said availability will vary by resort for the January specials. Each resort should be contacted directly. Some prefer making reservations online, while others are favorable to a phone call. Each resort sets the days of the lessons and number of slots per lesson.

“It is important for us to teach the non-skiing public that skiing is a family activity, a social activity,” she says. “You can try something new as a family and discover a lifelong activity to share.”

Keeler noted receiving a phone call from a mother who had three tween and teenaged children, one wanting to try snowboarding and two opting for snowboarding.

Danbury’s Ragged Mountain is raising the proverbial bar in the learn-to niche by offering a three-lesson program throughout the winter for free. The Bebe Wood Free Learn to Ski & Ride Program provides first-time skiers and snowboarders three free lessons, a lower mountain lift ticket and rental equipment at no costs.

Graduates of the three-lesson program are also offered the opportunity to purchase a new Rossignol ski equipment package of skis, bindings, boots, and poles or a Rossignol snowboard equipment package of a snowboard, bindings, and boots for $299 for adults and $199 for kids.

“Our goal is to make skiing affordable and bring it back,” marketing Director Ben Hall said. “We know that it’s pretty difficult for many families to take up the sport. Skiing is fun.”

As Keeler said, “The learning component doesn’t end with January. There are some really good incentives, great things to take advantage of if you do a little research.”

(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)

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